Harun Yahya’s “Science” Fiction – Part 2
Clouded Mind Dawah
This is the second instalment in my series of looking at Harun Yahya’s science blunders found in his many claims of scientific miracles in the Qur’an. As noted in the first part, the claim for a scientific miracle in the Qur’an consists of (1) an interpretation of a Quranic verse, (2) an explanation of a scientific fact, and (3) establishing a valid connection between these two. However, a failure in either one of these parts invalidates the miracle claim.
The aim of this series is to expose failures – or even deliberate deceit – in the second ingredient of the alleged miracles, i.e. wrong scientific claims. The “miracle” I selected for this second rebuttal is particularly embarrassing as it manages to fail in all three aspects. The Qur’an is misinterpreted, scientific facts are misrepresented and a connection between these two false claims is merely asserted without the least effort to present a valid argument.
Harun Yahya proclaims that the Qur’an reveals:
THE EARTH'S DIRECTION OF ROTATION
You will see the mountains and reckon them to be solid; but they go past like clouds-the handiwork of Allah Who gives to everything its solidity. He is aware of what you do. (Qur'an, 27:88)
The above verse emphasises that the Earth not only rotates but that it also has a direction of rotation. The direction of movement of the main cloud masses at 3,500-4,000 metres high is always from West to East. That is why it is generally the state of the weather in the West which is looked at in meteorological forecasts.18
The main reason why cloud masses are pulled from West to East is the direction in which the Earth rotates. As we now know, our Earth spins from West to East. This scientific fact, only recently established by science, was revealed 1,400 years ago in the Qur’an, at a time when the Earth was believed to be flat, and to be resting on the back of an ox. (Source, as accessed on 3 August 2011)
And he added the following footnote to support at least one of his claims:
18. “Effects of Rotation (Coriolis Effect),” The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, www.woodrow.org/teachers/esi/1998/p/weather/Corriolis.HTM.
Interestingly and ironically, a careful reading of this referenced paper is sufficient to refute nearly all of Harun Yahya’s claims made in these few paragraphs, but we are going to have a bit more fun than merely quote from this article. More on that later.
Ad (1): Misinterpretation: Harun Yahya corrupts the meaning of the Qur’an, because this verse does not speak about the present time and the rotation of the earth, but about the time when God will judge the earth and the power of God will make even mighty mountains disappear.
Masud Masihiyyen has done a careful examination of this verse and skilfully exposes the dishonest manipulation of it by a number of Muslim propagandists (Halûk Nurbaki, Caner Taslaman, Harun Yahya) in his article, Islamic Dishonesty At Work! There is no need to repeat his analysis of this verse in its immediate and its wider context. For a detailed exegesis of S. 27:88, the reader should consult Masihiyyen’s paper.
Ad (3): While Nurbaki and Taslaman at least tried to argue from the Quranic statement to the rotation of the earth, Yahya simply assumes this interpretation as being obvious when he quotes the verse and then “boldly” asserts:
You will see the mountains and reckon them to be solid; but they go past like clouds-the handiwork of Allah Who gives to everything its solidity. He is aware of what you do. (Qur'an, 27:88)
The above verse emphasises that the Earth not only rotates but that it also has a direction of rotation.
However, Sura 27:88 does not contain any one of the words “earth”, “rotation” or “direction”. This verse does not even hint at the rotation of the earth, let alone emphasize it. Moreover, there is no rotation without direction. Every rotation has a direction. Direction it is not an “additional” feature as Yahya seems to assume.1
Anyway, Harun Yahya’s main point is the direction of the movement of clouds, and that is where he reveals his ignorance of science – and/or his deceptive manipulation of the facts. This is the main topic of my rebuttal.
Ad (2): Harun Yahya states:
The direction of movement of the main cloud masses at 3,500-4,000 metres high is always from West to East. That is why it is generally the state of the weather in the West which is looked at in meteorological forecasts.18
The main reason why cloud masses are pulled from West to East is the direction in which the Earth rotates. As we now know, our Earth spins from West to East.
This is utter nonsense for many reasons. Yahya’s statements are wrong in regard to so many details and so totally confused that we have to unravel this mess in small steps.
First of all, the direction of clouds is determined by the winds. The rotation of the earth features only as a secondary aspect since it is only one of several factors influencing the winds. Even more importantly, the dominant wind direction is not the same everywhere on earth. Turkey happens to be in an area where westerly winds are quite common, but even in Turkey the wind can blow from any direction. It is utterly false to say that the clouds (winds) “always” go from west to east. Look at this series of pictures:
Contrary to Yahya’s claim, the (few) clouds over Turkey at that time are moving roughly south to north (more precisely, SSW to NNE2). And in the upper right corner of the satellite image, some clouds over Russia are even moving east to west on an approximately circular arc.
The above animated image is simply a snapshot taken during the time of doing the research for this rebuttal article; the image being exactly as it was displayed on this Turkish weather site (*). Because Harun Yahya is from Turkey, I chose a Turkish government site so that he would not have any excuse, but similar images or videos can be found online for many countries.3
Harun Yahya actually seems to be aware of the fact that clouds do not always move in the direction of the rotation of the earth. What else could be the reason for his mysterious doubly-restricted assertion:
The direction of movement of the main cloud masses at 3,500-4,000 metres high is always from West to East.
He provides no reference for this. It is a naked assertion, unsubstantiated and blatantly wrong. Ironically, if we assume it to be true for argument’s sake, it actually contradicts and invalidates his claim that
The main reason why cloud masses are pulled from West to East is the direction in which the Earth rotates.
If the rotation of the earth would be the direct cause why clouds are pulled from west to east, why would that apply only to the clouds in this particular height range? Why only the clouds in the small interval of 3,500-4,000 meters above the earth? Why not those clouds floating 2,000 meters above ground nor the clouds moving 5,000 meters above the ground? Why would the rotation of the earth affect only clouds at a certain distance? Yahya’s assertion bears the marks of deception: trying to appear scientific but actually talking complete nonsense.
Clouds are driven by winds. What are the prevailing winds, i.e. the dominant directions of winds in various parts of the earth? Wikipedia4 provides this image:
Source: Wikipedia, Prevailing winds
Agreed, Turkey is in the mid-latitude area where westerly winds are very common, but as a general statement applicable for the whole earth, Yahya’s claim is clearly wrong.
In fact, occasionally one can even see clouds at different heights move in different directions (1, 2, 3). What does that say about the rotation of the earth? What about clouds associated with tornados which have a rapid circular motion? (Cf. 1, 2, 3, 4.) How is Yahya going to square this with his theory?
Back to Yahya’s weird selection for a height range for clouds. At what height are clouds found? The Wikipedia article “Clouds” categorizes clouds in various major families:
High (Family A)
High clouds form between 10,000 and 25,000 ft (3,000 and 8,000 m) in the polar regions, 16,500 and 40,000 ft (5,000 and 12,000 m) in the temperate regions and 20,000 and 60,000 ft (6,000 and 18,000 m) in the tropical region. …
Middle (Family B)
Middle clouds tend to form at 6,500 ft (2,000 m) but may form at heights up to 13,000 ft (4,000 m), 23,000 ft (7,000 m) or 25,000 ft (8,000 m) depending on the latitudinal region. …
Low (Family C)
Low clouds are found from near surface up to 6,500 ft (2,000 m). …
Moderate vertical (Family D1)
Family D1 clouds have low to middle bases anywhere from near surface to about 10,000 ft (3,000 m) and therefore do not fit very well into the conventional height ranges of low, middle, and high. …
Towering vertical (Family D2)
These clouds can have strong vertical currents and rise far above bases which form anywhere in the low to lower-middle altitude range from near surface to about 10,000 ft (3,000 m) and consequently elude classification into the three conventional height ranges. …
In addition to these, the article speaks of some rarer kinds of clouds:
Nacreous clouds occur in the stratosphere most typically at altitudes of 15,000–25,000 m (50,000–80,000 ft) …
Noctilucent clouds are the highest in the atmosphere and occur mostly at altitudes of 80 to 85 kilometers (50 to 53 mi), … (Wikipedia, Clouds, as accessed on 22 August 2011)
Apart from those rarer kinds that appear up to 25,000 or even 85,000 m, the main clouds appear anywhere between the surface and up to 20,000 m (Family A in tropical regions). There is no indication whatsoever that the “main cloud masses” are found at a height of “3,500-4,000 metres”, let alone that they always move in the same direction, as Harun Yahya claims. There is simply nothing special about these 500 meters out of the 20,000 meters range where clouds commonly occur.
In fact, the above Wikipedia article has an interesting image depicting the structure of a vertical towering cloud (*) which in its mature stage extends from about 1,500 to about 14,000 meters!
Source: Wikipedia (truncated image)
What is Yahya’s justification for cutting out from it a meager slice at the height of 3,500-4,000 meters and discarding the rest?
Unless and until Harun Yahya can provide a scientific source for this claim that “[t]he direction of movement of the main cloud masses at 3,500-4,000 metres high is always from West to East”, all available information suggests that this is a naked lie, a fabrication of “a scientific fact” for the purpose of constructing a “Qur’an miracle” by way of deception.
The fact that Yahya restricted his statement to clouds at this particular height range indicates that he is aware that his statement is not true for clouds in general, and the fact that clouds move in all kinds of directions proves that their movement does not reveal the rotation of the earth, nor its direction.
In fact, winds would blow and clouds would move even if the earth had no rotation at all. The sun would warm up some parts of the earth more than others, which causes differences in temperature and air pressure. Thus a flow of air would arise (wind) from areas of higher pressure to areas of lower pressure. The rotation of the earth is one aspect that influences the winds but it is not the cause of winds. And the winds – and thus the clouds – do not simply move in the direction of the rotation of the earth.
We leave it to the readers to come to his own conclusion whether Harun Yahya makes his claims because of stupidity and ignorance or rather for the purpose of deliberate deception, serving a gullible audience the miracles they crave – and being paid quite well for doing so.5
Odds and ends
Harun Yahya even added a footnote to support his claim with a scientific source. However, when one actually reads that webpage, one finds that it defeats Harun Yahya instead of supporting him. In this article, in the final section titled “Prevailing Winds”, we find these statements:
Air at the surface in the mid-latitudes tries to move from the regions of sinking near 30o latitude towards the regions of rising air near 60o latitude in both hemispheres. The deflection by the Coriolis effect produces the prevailing westerlies in the mid-latitudes in both hemispheres. The Earth of course has features such as oceans, continents and mountain chains, so there are further complications to these patterns. Still the easterlies in the tropics and the westerlies in the mid latitudes exist on average. The banding of clouds into certain latitudes is related to these motions and a time lapse picture shows clouds in the mid-latitudes moving west to east. That is why we can often look to the west to know what weather we might expect. Weather systems in our latitudes often move from west to east. We live in mid latitudes, but we know that the wind does not always blow from the west. That is due to the effect of low and high pressure systems which determine the winds over distances of hundreds of miles. The wind resulting from such systems can blow from any direction depending on where you are relative to the center of low or high pressure. The prevailing westerlies represent the average tendency for the winds to blow from west to east in the mid-latitudes. … (Source)
Yahya took the two underlined sentences and manipulated their content by removing “in our latitudes”, changing “often” to “always”, and totally ignoring the rest of this paper. The result is that Yahya clearly misrepresents what this article says. He abuses a solid paper by claiming it as support for his own wrong and even absurd statements about the movement of clouds.
This paper clearly says that there are (1) easterly winds in the tropics, i.e. winds going the opposite direction from the rotation of the earth, and (2) that we know that wind does not always blow from the west, i.e. clouds do not always move from west to east, even in our part of the world. Thus, Yahya’s own source refutes his claim that the direction of the clouds is the same as the rotation of the earth. Yahya is deliberately misrepresenting his source. That is the opposite of intellectual integrity, to put it mildly.
In the following, I will present another reason why rotation cannot be the cause of the movements of the clouds based on Yahya’s own statements. Harun Yahya wrote:
The direction of movement of the main cloud masses at 3,500-4,000 metres high is always from West to East. … The main reason why cloud masses are pulled from West to East is the direction in which the Earth rotates.
It should be obvious that a rotating earth can accelerate the clouds at most up to its own speed.6 However, if clouds move west to east (as viewed by somebody standing on the surface of the earth) that means that the clouds are moving faster than the rotating surface of the earth. In other words, the rotation cannot be the reason for the cloud movement from the west to east since this movement is measured relative to the rotating earth. Something else must push the clouds to move faster than the earth. Even if the rotation of the earth were the reason that clouds are pulled along with it at the same speed (and thus looking stationary from the surface of the earth), the statement of Harun Yahya is definitely and totally wrong. The movement of clouds from west to east relative to the surface of the earth is certainly not caused by the rotation of the earth.
This observation shows yet again that Harun Yahya has a serious lack in scientific understanding. He is ignorant of the basic facts of Physics.
Finally, we need to correct Harun Yahya’s closing remark:
As we now know, our Earth spins from West to East. This scientific fact, only recently established by science, was revealed 1,400 years ago in the Qur’an, at a time when the Earth was believed to be flat, and to be resting on the back of an ox.
On the contrary, the “flat earth” view is part of the Qur’an and the prevalent understanding in the Muslim traditions,7 even though Greek astronomy was much more advanced than that many hundreds of years before Muhammad. Harun Yahya’s ignorance of the history of science is embarrassing and shameful for someone who poses as an expert on these issues.
Here, again, is some basic information from Wikipedia:
The concept of a spherical Earth dates back to ancient Greek philosophy from around the 6th century BC, but remained a matter of philosophical speculation until the 3rd century BC when Hellenistic astronomy established the spherical shape of the earth as a physical given. (Wikipedia, Spherical Earth, as accessed on 24 August 2011; underline emphasis mine)
Hicetas (… ca. 400 BC – ca. 335 BC) was a Greek philosopher of the Pythagorean School. He was born in Syracuse. Like his fellow Pythagorean Ecphantus and the Academic Heraclides Ponticus, he believed that the daily movement of permanent stars was caused by the rotation of the Earth around its axis. (Wikipedia, Hicetas, as accessed on 24 August 2011; underline emphasis mine)
Heraclides Ponticus (… c. 390 BC – c. 310 BC), also known as Herakleides and Heraklides of Pontus, was a Greek philosopher and astronomer who lived and died at Heraclea Pontica, now Karadeniz Ereğli, Turkey. He is best remembered for proposing that the earth rotates on its axis, from west to east, once every 24 hours. He is also frequently hailed as the originator of the heliocentric theory, although this is doubted. (Wikipedia, Heraclides Ponticus, as accessed on 24 August 2011; underline emphasis mine)
Ironically, Heraklides lived and taught about 950 years before the Qur’an in an area which now belongs to Turkey, but Yahya does not know the scientific history of his own home country. Another Greek astronomer and mathematician who taught “the earth to revolve in an oblique circle, while it rotates, at the same time, about its own axis” was Aristarchus of Samos (310 BC – ca. 230 BC).8
Here is the next important person:
Eratosthenes of Cyrene (… c. 276 BC – c. 195 BC) was a Greek mathematician, poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, and music theorist.
He was the first person to use the word "geography" and invented the discipline of geography as we understand it. He invented a system of latitude and longitude.
He was the first person to calculate the circumference of the earth by using a measuring system using stades, or the length of stadiums during that time period (with remarkable accuracy). He was the first to calculate the tilt of the Earth's axis (also with remarkable accuracy).
Eratosthenes was … the third chief librarian of the Great Library of Alexandria, the center of science and learning in the ancient world, … (Wikipedia, Eratosthenes, as accessed on 24 August 2011)
Again, Eratosthenes lived some 800 years before the Qur’an was “revealed”. Does that sound like a “flat earth resting on the back of an ox”? Harun Yahya is dismally ignorant.9
In conclusion, I want to point to another mathematician-astronomer, the Indian Aryabhata (*) who lived more than a century before the revelation the Qur’an and also taught explicitly that the earth rotates about its own axis. This is found in his magnum opus, the Aryabhatiya, written in c. 499 AD, at the age of 23. Although his works were probably not known in Arabia at the time of Muhammad (contrary to Greek Astronomy which was known to educated people at the time of Muhammad), it again shows that people long before Muhammad came to the conclusion that the earth rotated about its own axis – simply by thinking about their observations of the world. It is not a divine miracle to come to this insight. Moreover, the statements of these astronomers were explicit and clear while the Qur’an makes no clear statement about the rotation of the earth; Muslim progagandists like Harun Yahya have to “read it into the text” because it is not there.